The Invisible Gift

I have a question for you. It’s a question that will require some deep thinking on your behalf. What is the “Invisible Gift” you give each customer with each interaction or transaction? It’s not a thank you gift, or a discount for shopping or even a promotional item, its something that you can’t touch, but can impact your business more than you realize.

The “Invisible Gift” is given with every interaction your business has with a customer. Many times we overlook it or don’t even realize we give it, but it happens. And when that Invisible Gift is given, it will determine if the memory of the experience lasts. The gift is part of the experience a customer has with you and it is the one thing most businesses don’t even acknowledge they give it, especially if you stage an experience.

Designing and then staging an effective and memorable experience requires changes on many levels of design and performance. It will also require a shift in the value proposition because the product changes.

In the Experience Economy, the shift from buying things to doing things is the fundamental shift in the value offering. This shift also provides a change in the product. No longer is the product the thing you buy, rather the customer themselves. The thing that is acquired becomes a token of memorabilia in one form or another. It is the trigger to the memory of the experience.

The trigger is merely a tool to revisit the experience through our memories. We recall images, sounds, scents, textures and even various tastes. Yet there is one element of our memories that is so pronounced that it determines if the experience is even worthy of remembering.

So, if the shift of the product in the Experience Economy is the customer and the item acquire is the memorabilia, then should there not be a shift in the design mechanism for designing and staging of an experience? The answer is simply, yes. Designing an experience requires a different approach beyond the thing to sell or the environment where the selling happens.

We hear and read so much about Experiences and designing experiences. Different methods, processes and even so called standards of design. It can get quite confusing and convoluted at times that some designers might tend to skip over key elements or forget to incorporate a holistic approach.

Is there a better way? My answer is again, yes. The method that changes how designers develop an experience is sourced directly to the “invisible Gift”.

The Invisible gift is an emotion.

Each customer leaves with it even if the business is unaware its been given. The invisible gift of an emotion is forever tied to the experience and how the customer perceives the value of the interaction. Because customers are human and humans are emotional beings, it only makes sense, as designers and stager of experiences, that emotion is the key design element and target customer outcome. As stated, the customer is the product and customers are emotional beings.

So, what emotion do you want to sell? This is the question that can help define the outcome intent of the experience. It will shape the interaction, the roles of the staff and dictate how the environment will be staged. By knowing what emotion you want to be tied to the experience, every aspect of the experience will be shaped by that emotion.

As an example of emotion as a overreaching design theme, Disney World leveraged this idea from the very beginning when they promoted the park as being “the happiest place on Earth.” They are selling happiness. Their selling an emotion. With that emotion, everything they do, everything the design and every interaction is framed by that one emotion of happiness.

Using emotion as a design principle can help determine what elements need to be added, removed or enhanced to achieve the emotional outcome. Are you staging an experience to make customers happy, sad, loved, envied or even tranquil. Any emotion can be used, but focus on only one. Trying to have multiple emotional outcomes can become tricky if not confusing for designers, performers and customers. Be like Disney and go for one even if others ride along.

Now that you know the “Invisible Gift” every business gives its customers is emotion, what emotion are you giving your customers today and what emotion do you want them to have after the next interaction? Design your business around a single emotion, because the things they buy are not as important as the memory of how they acquired it.

Time: The New Currency

Since the late 1950s, the history of branch banking in America has been all about being in the midst of the population. No bank could survive without being accessible in a timely fashion. Convenience became one of the prime factors for locating a branch. The focus was to reduce the time it takes to get from point A to the branch. If it was by car, banks planned around the flow of traffic. If it was a pedestrian environment, banks planned the location along the path. This was all about convenience of doing business with the bank and to ensure that the customer did not have to go out of the way. If a bank was in the path, it made sense for a customer to bank there—it was about how to better save time.

Enter technology. Now, being in the path of customers meant being readily accessible in their hands. Most transactions are performed—not in person—but online and through mobile devices. Technology quickly became the ultimate time saver. This opened the question, ‘”Where do you locate now and what should the branch become?”

The best way to address this question is to change the framework of the question. Before it was about doing something for the customer they could not do on their own, now banking needs to refocus away from saving customers time to creating places where time is well spent. The only way to do this is by going beyond services that are tailored towards doing for the customer to creating things to do with the customer. Stage an engagement that is memorable and sharable that the customer does within the branch.

Here’s the idea. Take some ‘thing’ that is usually used at a bank and create some activity around that thing. This is called “Ing the Thing”, a principle in the Experience Economy. Take a normal action of a thing and create an engaging activity around it that people come to do or watch others do. Now, exaggerate the idea to make it a spectacle.

Look at the classic piggy bank. The piggy bank is a great ‘thing’ to ‘ing’. First, make it really oversized. Now, stage an activity around the oversized piggy bank that generates interest. Maybe it squeals when people put coins in it. It becomes a photo-worthy opportunity for your visitors and becomes a great fund-raiser. “The Piggy Bank That Is Saving….” Use whatever best applies. Saving—the action word—now takes on a new meaning and purpose.


Cracking the Safe.

Any object or thing can be a source of an experience if you take the action related to it and leverage it as the activity. Now the branch becomes a stage for an experience and a place to engage customers and make memories. Then you change from time well saved into time well spent.


Need help ‘Inging the Thing’ send me an email and let’s see what we can do together.